When you start any fitness program you always need a target or goal. To achieve this marker or goal you should have a starting point whether this is your 1RM (1 rep max), 2km indoor rowing time or your one mile running pace these all are useful points that you can measure your progress against.
Much like taking a measurement of your waist, using measurements of loads on the barbell or times of distances can work really well on recording your progress. These types of goals can also be mixed into your SMART goals and make them achievable as you are comparing your progress all the time whilst performing your training.
My marker at the moment is my 2km time of 7:24.1. This is the time I have rowed a 2km at the start of the pre-competition training phase. So all my rowing sessions from now till the end of November will be measured against this time and my average 500m split of that 2km time which was 1:51 will be used to pace some of my sessions too.
The above may sound complicated and too many numbers where exercise is concerned but it really helps me in my training on lots of levels. It helps my motivation as I have a time that I want to beat, it helps my progress as it has the splits that can be used to pace my training rowing sessions so the time used will work out how fast/slow I want to be in that session, and finally and more importantly it will help guide me through this tough phase of training keeping me on the straight and narrow, letting me have structure in a phase that could become a stressful and mentally tough period building up to my competition.
Obviously for the average gym- goer their fitness plan is all about seeing results in their overall fitness and changes in their body shape, but these markers can all help towards this as well. When progressing through a strength plan you are mostly using the famous ‘overload principle’, where you overload the muscles, thus allowing them to make the important adaptations to build lean muscle, strength or power - depending on what system you are working on in that particular phase in your program. Seeing progression in your weights builds motivation, enthusiasm and most of all a real chance to change everything about your body shape.
So you see using markers in any fitness program breeds mostly positive results. There are going to be times where you hit a plateau but having these markers can also help you change your sessions helping you to get back onto the right track to achieve your goals. Be realistic in your goals, challenge yourself, push hard, keep an eye on motivation and how you feel throughout your training, all these points will help in your journey to achieve what you started for. Don’t forget it will be hard and challenging and remember the most important points of all when using any fitness programs is consistency which is key to any athlete achieving their goals.